Early Byzantine Jewelry: How Did Byzantine Finger Rings Become the Best?

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Finger rings have survived in greater numbers than other Byzantine ornaments. The majority are figured with the beautiful symbolism of the Christian belief. Some are set with engraved gems, but on most the design is produced by the more simple process of engraving the metal of which the ring is composed.

In early Christian times rings were often offered as presents, and were engraved with expressions of goodwill towards the recipient, whose name is sometimes mentioned. The British Museum contains a somewhat extensive collection of these rare objects in gold. Bronze, often gilded, is naturally the commoner material. Silver appears to have been scarcely ever employed.

The interest of the majority of Byzantine rings arises rather from the subjects with which they are associated, than from the quality of their workmanship. There is, however, in the British Museum a very beautiful example of pierced gold work in the form of a key ring with projecting tongue, of a kind much used in Roman times, which opened the lock by lifting a latch.

Upon the front of a wide hoop are the words Accipe diilcis, in letters reserved in metal in a pierced ground. The remainder of the hoop is divided into compartments, each containing one letter of the inscription Mnltis annis. Above the inscription, in front, is a rectangular projection, perhaps for insertion into a lock. It is finely pierced with a design in the form of Greek crosses.

The sack of Constantinople by the French and Venetians dealt the death-blow to Byzantine art. Until well into the thirteenth century the Byzantine goldsmiths continued to exercise an important influence on their contemporaries, and transmitted to the artists of medieval Europe such of the processes and designs of antique art as they had preserved. Their intercourse was closest with Russia, whose jewelry for centuries, has followed the designs of the old Byzantine workmen.

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Author: fairydew1

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